How Does Screen Time Affect Your Sleep?

Last updated on September 5th, 2023 at 02:02 pm

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We know, we know! Eight hours a night is what the doctor recommends, though let’s face it… Many of us struggle to stick to it. While there are heaps of things from overheating (wrong duvet?) to overthinking that can get in the way of a good night’s sleep, blue screens are a constant culprit. Modern life has us hanging out on our laptops, iPads, and iPhones far more than is healthy. Wondering how all that screen time affects your sleep? Sit down and get comfy. We will look at just that and some simple ways to stop scrolling and start snoozing. 

Screen Alert

You’re lying on the sofa… a movie’s on, your texting friends, checking Instagram, oh and while you’re at it you might as well send that email. You get the picture. When it comes to screen time- we can’t get enough of it! From the minute the alarm goes off on our ever-advancing devices we are switched on. Screen alert-for all the benefits technology brings, too much of the stuff comes with side effects. Like disrupting our sleep! How? 

  Let’s break it down nice and simple.

Alarm clock

Tick tock– Put down your fancy watches your body has a biological clock of its own that follows a 24-hour sleep-wake cycle. A hormone called cortisol is released with the sunrise, filling you with beans (a bit like your coffee)

dog by the computer

Feeling Sleepy – As daylight fades, so does your energy. Your body produces another hormone- melatonin that makes you want to snuggle into your duvet and yawnnnnn… sleep!

Smartphone blue light

Blue Intrusion- Bedtime scrolling? Though those late-night memes and Instagram stories could keep you blinking into the early hours. Blue light is bad for your sleep as it disrupts the production of melatonin, putting your body clock all out of whack.

No sleep is no fun. Low mood, struggling to focus, reaching for sugar? All symptoms of not getting enough shut-eye. The good news is you don’t have to give up your screen life to get better sleep. It’s all about finding a balance, life is like a yoga pose as they say!

Here are some simple things to try for healthier scrolling and deeper snoozing

How Does Blue Light Affect Sleep?

As mentioned, blue light isn’t good – and this has to do with melatonin, which is also known as the sleepy hormone. This is what encourages you to go to sleep, so the more you have of it the better! But blue light can suppress melatonin production, meaning you have less of it and therefore struggle to drift off. Blue light (composed of electromagnetic radiation, which is an invisible form of energy) also disrupts your circadian rhythms by making you feel alert when you should be at the point of falling asleep.

Switch off and Snooze on

Waking up feeling blue? It’s time to change that. And reducing your blue light exposure is a bright place to start. Let’s get ready for bed!

Unwind from the day–  WFH, demanding jobs, and parenting responsibilities can make it super hard to switch off from life and our phones, right? Making it a priority to get restful sleep will give you the mood, mindset, and energy to take on the next day. Indulge in a hot bath, wrap up in a fluffy towel and slip into your PJs. It’s time to switch off. 

Bedtime matters-  From a sumptuously soft duvet to the perfect pillow… make the bed the place you dream about diving into all day!

Keep the lights dim, the room cool and screens out. Making your bedroom a blue-free zone will do wonders for the quality of your snoozing – no sneaky midnight scrolling!

Protect your eyes- Our eyes are constantly exposed to screens, friends this can not only affect our snoozing! Studies suggest an overload of blue light emissions can cause eye strain. One way to scroll like a smartie is to invest in a pair of blue – light-blocking glasses – especially before bedtime! Can’t resist that late-night scrolling? Pop a pair by your bedside (or sofa table) to reduce exposure and set yourself up for a better night’s kip.

Switching up your screen habits with these tips will keep blue light blues at bay. Remember, caring for yourself is the best way to wake up feeling magical. And there is no comfier place to start… than bedtime!

How long before bed should you stop screen time?

It might be easier said than done, but putting the screens down at least an hour before you plan to sleep is highly recommended. If you look at screens *a lot* during the day, however, you’re being exposed to more light overall – and therefore, you should try and put your screen (phone, tablet, laptop, etc) away 2 hours before bed if possible. Opt for something like a book, jigsaw or arts and crafts in the lead-up to bedtime if you want something to do. And if you’re hoping to wind down, try some yoga or meditation.

Can screen time lead to insomnia?

Because screen time disrupts your circadian rhythms and suppresses melatonin production, making it harder to fall asleep, it can lead to insomnia. This happens if you use screens in the evening night after night – then you’ll be struggling to drift off on a regular basis. If you have repeated episodes of lying awake all night, this can be classified as insomnia. But if screen time is the reason for your sleep struggles, then at least you know there’s an easy fix: cutting down on how much you use your phone or tablet in the evening!

How does screen time affect children’s sleep?

Children need more sleep than adults, and their bodies are still getting used to producing the right amount of hormones – so screen time will hinder their sleep just as much, if not more than it does for adults. As well as this, whatever they’re watching or doing on a screen is bound to be overstimulating with bright colours and plenty of noise. This leaves their mind busy and full of fun when they should be relaxing…

Maida Lynn Chen, a professor of paediatrics, says fast-paced images (such as those on TikTok) are causing an issue for young people: ‘Media content can disrupt both nondream and dream sleep. Have you ever fallen asleep watching a disturbing thriller or a horror movie and had scenes from that movie enter your dreams? And it’s not just dreams that are affected – the brain also may not sustain deep, nondream sleep since it is still processing those fast-paced images. These intrusions in your sleep can disrupt overall quality and quantity of sleep.’

Screen time guidelines

According to a University of Bristol paper, recent advice from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is that children should have TV-free days or have 2-hour limits on the time spent in front of screens. In 2013, the USA Department of Health recommended that children under two should not be in front of a screen at all, and over that age, the maximum leisure screen time should be no more than 2 hours a day. And when it comes to adults, the guidelines are pretty similar – the less screen time, the better, at least outside of work.

It also makes sense to watch what type of media you or your children consume during screen time. Ensure you steer clear of anything nightmare-inducing or too overstimulating!

What are the long-term effects of excessive screen time on sleep?

If screen time is regularly impacting your sleep, this has a long-term impact on your health and well-being; if you continue to have excessive screen time in the evening, you’ll struggle to fall asleep every night. Over time, this messes with your melatonin levels, and you’ll feel the hit even on nights when you put your phone down earlier. You’ll find yourself sleepier during daytime hours, leading to a lack of concentration and increased frustration levels. A prolonged lack of sleep can also negatively impact your mental health, making you more prone to depression and anxiety.

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